-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary US author & satirist (1842 - 1914)
Today we actually had a very full day. In the morning we visited our new clinic and had a long but productive meeting with key staff. We asked a ton of basic logistical questions and got some very interesting answers. For instance, when we asked about how they did their medical records they said that that used to keep a "family book." The book served two purposes, one was to show who was eligible for care at the clinic through a photo that is displayed on the cover and the other was to document their care. They would bring the book in with them whenever they were seen for an appointment. The other interesting thing we learned is the way they pay out disability (remember this is primarily a police clinic). In the military when someone performs 20 years of active duty service the VA reviews their medical record and determines the percentage of disability that the service member should receive. The way the ANP physicians do it is they basically pay them cash on the spot when the injury occurs. They have a really big book that lists all of the different disabilities and how much the patient should be compensated.
We brought along an Army dentist with us and he spent some time with his Afghan counterpart. I also helped unload some of the new equipment like exercise bikes and exam tables.
After the clinic visit we hooked back up with the Wolf Pack (our Army friends who we hitch a ride with whenever we go out because they have really big guns on their turrets). They invited us to another one of their going away lunches. It took place a restaurant called "The Turkish House." It is located within the compound of the Ministry of Defense (MOD). The MOD is the Afghan equivalent of the Pentagon. The Wolf Pack mentors the senior leadership of the Afghan National Army (ANA) over there.
We had an incredible lunch. The Turkish House was really nice. There was a well known Afghan drummer and guitarist playing music. We sat around a huge table and ate kabobs, flat bread, rice, soup and eggplant. It was delicious. The occasion we were celebrating was the end of a deployment for one of the Army guys. He is a National Guard member who works as a music teacher in his civilian job. He was deployed to Kabul to help "mentor" the MOD's music band. I tell you what, there used to be a time when certain jobs were unofficially nondeployable but when they start deploying music teachers to war zones then all bets are officially off.
The person having the going away was also a liaison for the interpreters. I wanted to mention an interesting interpreter observation. A good number of the interpreters out here are actually doctors. The reason they are doctors is because doctors earn only $50.00 per month seeing patients verses $700.00 as interpreters. You really cannot blame them for what they do. I would probably be doing the same thing. The sad thing is that just about every one of them that you talk to is also trying to get a visa to go to the U.S.. The reason why it is sad is because these people are the brains of Afghanistan and we need them to stay and help rebuild their country.
I had a very poignant conversation with our interpreter when I was driving our HUMVEE back home from the clinic. We all communicate within the HUMVEE through the use of headsets that make you feel like you are in a cockpit of an airplane. During our long drive home I asked our interpreter what it was like when the Taliban took over their country and I got wonderful 20 minute first hand account of those terrible 2 years as we drove through the heart of Kabul. I felt like he was a narrator guiding me through a real life museum. Just imagine a mob of crazy fanatical people taking over your community and no one there to help out. People were scared to drive around town because the Taliban would take their cars away. They would cut off people's hands and hang them from light posts all for minor infractions. Women could not work, could not go to school, could not be in public without a man. I could not imagine what it was like. I asked him a question of whether life had improved since the Americans arrived (knowing the obvious answer, but I was curious as to how he would respond). He answered, almost yelling, a resounding, "Yes! It is much better!!" That simple affirmation was all I needed to reassure me that this crazy 6 month adventure was worthwhile. I know that I am participating in a worthy cause and I am proud to be a part of it. We are making important and lasting impacts on these people's lives and it is definitely worth my sacrifice.
Thanks for reading.